By sportswriter Wang Haoming
SHENZHEN, China, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- A total of 258 runners were penalized for cheating in a recent Shenzhen Half Marathon, event organizers said on Thursday.
Organizers found 18 runners with fake bib numbers, three imposters, and 237 other cheaters, of whom a great number had taken shortcuts during last Sunday's event.
Runners with fake bib numbers and those who hired imposters are facing a lifetime ban from the event, and the other 237 runners will be banned for two years, according to an announcement by the organizing committee.
A video shot by a traffic camera at one section of the course shows some runners crossing from one side of the road to another.
Organizers said runners were supposed to continue running for at least one kilometer before making a u-turn at the end of the road, meaning that runners who took shortcuts would have run two or three kilometers less than the full 21 kilometer distance.
Another picture shot by a local photographer shows two runners with identical bib numbers.
"We deeply regret the violations that occurred during the event. Marathon running is not simply exercise, it is a metaphor for life, and every runner is responsible for him or herself," said the announcement.
The news quickly sparked a heated discussion among Chinese media and netizens.
An editorial by People's Daily read, "Please respect the Marathon, and respect sporting spirit!"
One user on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform lamented, "There are too many marathons in China nowadays, and too many so-called runners, but runners who really love running are still in short supply."
According to the latest data from the Chinese Athletics Association (CAA), 1,072 marathons and road races have been held in China this year, up from just 22 in 2011.